It was not a sight to behold. Apathetically mocked and beaten to death, he lay in a pool of blood that reeked of the scathing ire and abhorrence of the people who had conveniently murdered him. Discriminated against since the day he started school, this morbid picture of his demise was nothing but a direct reflection of the collective psyche of the violent mob that killed him. His inexplicable offense, his sin, put simply, was his religious identity, that of a Christian, which sorrowfully sealed his fate.

This was Sharoon Masih; a hardworking young boy who wanted to make a difference by attaining education despite the economic depravity of his family, but was tragically silenced by his classmates who deemed his position as a Christian to be offensive enough to qualify for murder. The horrendous attack could have easily been averted had the class teacher, who was then “busy reading the newspaper”, stepped in and taken matters in his own hands but what the teacher did was exhibit apathy to the suffering of a minority child, a child whose existence was insignificant and minor itself, since he was labelled as a derogated ‘churha’ by all of them.

Sharing the destiny of many oppressed social and religious minorities in Pakistan, what happened to Sharoon does not come as a surprise. Such discrimination and bigotry finds frequent manifestations in our communal approaches and bearings. A recent case in point being the chilling murder of Chanda; a transgender, by unidentified gunmen on the streets of Karachi, simply because her conflicted gender identity was something well beyond her command and control. Forcible conversions of Hindu women to Islam in the region of Sindh under physical or psychological duress or the persecution of Ismaili community further expose the deep-rooted bigotry shading the mind-sets of the people with respect to minorities in Pakistan. Where the minorities constitute only about four to five percent of the entire population, a safeguard of their economic interests and security should not be a herculean task for the state institutions to render.

It is rather deplorable to witness such exhibitions of violence which stand in dire repugnance to the vision for minorities that Jinnah envisioned at the time of the creation of Pakistan. While delivering a speech at the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11th, August, 1947, Jinnah categorically stated that one “may belong to any religion, caste or creed-that has nothing to do with the business of the state”, thereby mandating the basis of equality and impartiality, that serve as a prerequisites for a progressive democracy.

Democracy and minority rights are not mutually exclusive. A state that disregards the plight of minorities can only promise a fractured democracy shaded with cracks and crevices. The same holds true for Pakistan. It needs to be understood that the ‘otherisation’ of minorities, be they social or religious, threatens the essential spirit of democracy and peace in Pakistan since the political and ethical wellbeing of a society is best gauged by the way it treats its minorities, the people pushed to the peripheries.

Harvard political scientist James Robinson and MIT economist Daron Acemoglu in their co-authored book ‘Why Nations Fail’ reflect upon the major reasons that propel state failure. Amongst them, one of the most poignant ones is that ‘economic inequality translates into political inequality’ befittingly applies to Pakistan, where the minorities are not only physically discriminated against, but are financially and economically on the margins, where their attempts at social escalation are thwarted by derogatory tagging’s and they generally manage menial, low wage employment.

Discrimination of such sorts is not only distressingly despicable but is deadly enough to create an augury of lawlessness. In the light of this reality it becomes imperative for us to work towards the creation of an inclusive social environment that is conducive to the burgeoning of democracy and peace itself.

For this fore mostly of all, bigoted social attitudes need to be overhauled. This best starts from the home and the school; which in reality are the prime seats of learning a child is exposed to in his formative years. While growing up, if a child conceives of violence and flagrancy as the prerequisites for accomplishing tasks, he will conveniently resort to them in his adulthood. Eminent Psychologist Bandura’s Social Learning Theory pivots around this central concept of the transmission of aggression in children who tend to be exposed to such belligerence during their childhood. Since violence comes to be indoctrinated in their psyches, resorting to it does not qualify as an offense in their eyes. In late Sharoon’s case, it was the young students who beat him to death, under the apathetic supervision of their teacher. In doing so, these young children not only laid bare the indoctrination of violence and discrimination in their mindscapes but also revealed the little remorse they experienced in rendering such a vile act, which becomes all the more problematic for a society that is already struggling with combating extremism.

Also, children must be inculcated with the indispensable role played by the minorities in the creation of Pakistan, a service for which we are forever indebted to them. Be it the Lahore Resolution, the question of the boundary commission, or the issue of the division of Punjab, the minority brethren supported Jinnah through thick and thin. It is this aspect that must be realized and acknowledged.

Moreover, the rights accorded to the minorities in the constitution must be rightfully granted. Unlike the US Constitution 1789 that tragically contained the dehumanizing three-fifth compromise clause , which necessitated that African –American slaves constituted only three-fifths of a person , a clause that in the consequent generations came to be repealed, Pakistani constitution grants full liberty and equality to its minorities .Article Twenty of the Pakistani constitution calls upon for granting freedom to the minorities and other denominations to profess religion and however little has been practically rendered to engender such equality, thereby unravelling the façade of prejudicial practices under the garb of socio-religious tolerance.

Furthermore, it also needs to be comprehended that deterrence in cases of violence against minorities can only be possibly attained if the offenders are duly punished. When the offenders get a freehand and are conveniently released on bail, justice becomes a far cry. Also officials under the state machinery, who fail to ensure justice and parity for the minority segments must be penalized and subjected to punishment. This would pre-empt them from partaking in such discriminatory postures.

I have long maintained that for Pakistan to evolve as a democracy, bigotry and prejudicial postures need to be immediately done away with. While attempts may be made by the leadership to “modernize’ the nation through the construction of bridges, highways and advanced infrastructure, the heart of the matter is that the wall of silence erected in response to the cold-blooded murders of innocents like Sharoon and Chanda unravel the façade of tolerance , modernism and democracy. It needs to be duly realized that true modernism is related to the idea of state welfare which is practically reflected in the attitudes of the people -in the heart that feels and in the mind that understands, since discrimination only dehumanizes the target, making him a pawn in the social scuffle for authority and hegemony, an itinerary for which history may never forgive us.